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SNP delivers Scottish cuts

18 Nov 10

One-year budget spells lean times from prison service and housing, but protection for local authorities which toe the line

The SNP’s minority Scottish Government has delivered its budget – the first since Westminster’s comprehensive spending review slashed public spending over the next five years. Despite making significant cuts in housing, education and tourism, as well as a pay freeze for all but the lowest paid public sector workers, the budget has already been accused of pushing more painful measures back until after next year’s Scottish elections.

Delivering the budget, finance secretary John Swinney pinned the blame for cuts firmly on the UK Government, which he said had effectively cut Scotland’s spending money by over £1bn.

Restrictions on public sector pay will see and end to big bonuses and a pay freeze for those earning £21,000 or more. It will apply to Scottish government staff, as well as those working in government agencies and non-departmental public bodies.

Swinney also announced a deal struck with local authorities, under which those who toe the line will be sheltered from the biggest cuts.

Marc Mazzucco, head of Scottish local government consulting at PwC in Scotland, explained: “Local government in Scotland perhaps fared better than many may have feared in the days leading up to today’s budget. While the overall decrease in the budgets has been set at 2.6 per cent there are strings attached. In order to secure this preferential rate, as opposed to the 6.4 per cent that may otherwise have been the case, they will need to sign up to terms of agreement with Scottish Government. These conditions include freezing council tax, remaining committed to the delivery of the current single outcome agreements, maintaining key education statistics such as pupil-teacher ratios and teacher levels, police numbers, and free personal care.”

Among the hardest hit are the prison service, which faces a 22 per cut, which housing will lose 19.3 per cent.

However, all of Scotland’s symbolically important policies – such as no university tuition fees and plans to introduce free prescriptions – remain untouched. It also declines to budget beyond the coming year, a move which Scottish Labour's finance spokesman Andy Kerr believes smacks of playing politics.
"He is not running a country - he is running an election campaign,” said Kerr. "It is outrageous that our local authorities, health service, our universities, further education colleges, police and fire services are being denied the ability to plan effectively.

"They are all demanding clarity so that they too can set budgets, deliver services and reassure staff, but they cannot because of the SNP."



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